Being a father is hard. It's not like my two teens make it hard, at least not any harder than any other kids do. I love my kids like I love writing. More. But I had to grow into this role.
I am not a friend to my teens. I do not treat them as equals. Instead, I'm a coach. That's how I would describe it. Their personalities demand it. I teach. Encourage. Discipline. Enforce boundaries. Help set goals. Advise. Make them think. Steer them toward their talents. Question their choices. Force them to make choices. Push. Pull. Mentor. Counsel. Cheer. Convince. Collaborate (to a point). Remind them to shake it off. Believe in them. Caution them when they win. Love them when they lose. And sometimes I just let them play while I go regroup.
I wish I could be more, and less. Less selfish. I wish I were one of those born-to-be-a-father fathers. They do exist. I know some. Sure. They're human. They only seem perfect. But still...
Don't tell them, but there are times when I don't father my teens. And you know what? Those are my absolute favourite times being a father. Those times are rare. Some examples:
When we travel together. Our favourite trips northsoutheastwest mean so much to me: wandering together, discovering, exploring, sharing. Love that. When I listen to my son play guitar. When I listen to my daughter sing. When my son and I golf; I never act like a parent during those excursions. (We eat chips, catch frogs, find lost golf-balls; I let him lead; he's a much better golfer than I am.) And I'm never the parent when my daughter and I discover a new song or new book or a quirky movie to share, discuss, revel in.
It probably doesn't seem like much. But that's just the way it is. Right now anyway. When they were young, everything was a discovery together: snow, debating if the moon is a boy or a girl, the ocean floor covered with starfish. Loved that. But they are becoming their own people now, just as they always were, just as it should be.